Finding your fish in a sea of potential clients

In dating, when a significant other – or even a hoped-for significant other decides to part ways– it elicits the adage “Well, there are lots of fish in the sea.”

That’s a bunch of crap.

You don’t want just any significant other. If you did, you wouldn’t be hurt by the fact that the one you like just ditched you.

The same is true in law practice. Just as you don’t want any boyfriend/girlfriend, you shouldn’t want any client. Enter law #3 from the Seven laws of attraction for the Modern Jd.

Plan your work, work your plan

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There are lots of guides and law practice management consultants who can help you through the business planning process but here are four quick suggestions to get you started on your plan to attract the clients you want to your practice.

1. Who is your ideal client?

Figuring out who you want to be with – and how you attract that person – is central to your dating strategy. Do you want someone who likes the outdoors? Or not? Do you like someone who is quiet or conversational? Someone who likes the dancing and going out or, instead, would prefer a quiet evening at home?

In a law practice, the first thing you need to do is decide who you want to work with or what kind of a practice you want to have. Do you like going to court? Are you interested in making change in the law? Perhaps you’d enjoy some kind of niche appellate practice. Do you like a high volume practice, working with lots of people? Perhaps a divorce practice would be interesting. Maybe you want longevity of client relationships and interesting business challenges. Perhaps an estate planning and business practice focused on high net-worth individuals? These niches are pretty generic but there’s also flash mob law, eSports law, Second Amendment compliance law, Bitcoin law, and many others. As a first step, figure out who you want to help.

2. How will you find that client?

Just as your best chance to find someone who likes climbing is going to the mountains – not to the nearest club – you as a lawyer must think through not only where your client is but how you’ll find them and attract them to your practice.

If your ideal client is a technology company or game developer then you would be well-served by hitting the conference circuit or publishing a “how to” in a local technology or business publication. One law firm I know serves active duty military almost exclusively so they advertise heavily on Facebook. Another immigration practice I’m familiar with has a very popular Facebook page with more than 130,000 likes. It’s their most valuable marketing channel.

3. How will you serve that client?

Now that you’ve got a date with that special someone, show them your best side. Spending time with them isn’t a thoughtless exercise. You think about what you’ll wear, what you’ll do, and what you’ll say.

Similarly, what type of client you want and how you plan to attract them should drive just about everything else in your firm. If your practice is a high volume divorce or immigration firm then you need systems and processes that will efficiently, effectively, and ethically move clients through your firm. If your firm is designed to be more “bespoke,” handling Bitcoin issues or complicated estate tax strategies, then you’ll need to figure out what kind of value your clients are looking to get from you and how to effectively monetize that advice – i.e. decide upon fixed-fee vs. hourly structures, develop document templates, etc. Don’t overlook the details in a white glove-model service experience.

“But how do I do that?”

The first step is actually taking the time to go through a business planning exercise. This is not something traditionally taught in law school. In fact, the exercise of business planning was hardly even considered necessary for lawyers until very recently, when the bottom fell out of the legal market and many young lawyers had to seek refuge in solo practice. As mentioned above there are many law practice management resources – some of which you can access for free or for very little – to help get your practice off the ground. Highly recommended are How to Start and Build a Law Practice by Jay Foonberg (though I have been told it’s a bit dated). If you want to try something a bit more au currant try reading The Lean Startup by Eric Ries or check out Jason Moyse and Aron Solomon’s Lean Canvas for law provided courtesy of Clio.

4. Whatever you do, don’t practice “door law.”

Have some self-respect. One of the biggest turn-offs in dating is neediness. No one wants a boyfriend/girlfriend whose constant calls, texts, and Snaps quickly consume your life.

The same is true in law practice. You won’t be happy and, more significantly, won’t serve any of your clients well if, in your estimation, every client that comes through the door is the thing standing between your practice and certain financial demise. Figure out who you want to work with and why then have the bravery and self-confidence to say “no” to the work you don’t want.

There may have been a time when opening a successful law practice was a simple as hanging a sign that said “Lawyer” above your door and waiting for clients to stop by. That may have been the same era in which people married the guy or girl down the street “just ‘cuz.” Right or wrong, those days are gone – for both law and dating. Modern business requires intention and forethought not only to thrive but probably even to survive. And that means not just taking anything that comes along but seeking out the client you actually want.

There are lots of fish in the sea but there’s a big difference between plankton and halibut.